The 2000s were a golden era for the film industry, and, in fact, each year has a film that is considered one of the best of a genre and is re-watchable for years to come. Instead of focusing on reboots, the industry came up with new and original storylines that fans ate up and craved for more. Fans of the thriller genre can probably rattle off a ton of movies in this era, and a handful of them probably have a strong female lead in them. This chunk of time gave tribute to the amazing actresses in Hollywood and gave them the platform they deserved to shine and show viewers what they can do.
The 2000s were over a decade ago, though, and since there are so many films that offer an incredible female lead, sometimes it’s best to remind fans of the movies that had a great storyline, great cinematography, and amazing female characters.
10 The Cell – 6.3 (2000)
These days, Jennifer Lopez is considered a triple-threat in Hollywood, and, in 2000, she began her prime as an actress. Lopez plays a social worker who is involved in a new experimental technology that allows her to enter the mind of her clients.
When an FBI agent, played by Vince Vaughn, approaches her to help with a comatose serial killer who had recently kidnapped a woman, she agrees and is immersed into the mind of a sadistic killer with disturbing memories.
9 The Village – 6.5 (2004)
The Village, directed by M. Night Shyamalan, is deemed as having one of the best plot twists in movie history. Shyamalan tells the story of a desolate town in Pennsylvania where residents are commanded to abide by strict rules and are not able to leave the village. If they do, the monsters that live beyond the village limits will attack them.
Ivy Walker, played by Bryce Dallas Howard, plays a blind woman who, despite her disability, is a strong village resident and is curious to know what’s beyond the borders, willing to risk everything to save the ones she loves.
8 May – 6.6 (2002)
May revolves around a socially awkward veterinary assistant named May Dove Canady who has a lazy eye and an obsession with perfection. May, played by the exceptional Angela Bettis, slips into depravity after becoming infatuated with a man who has perfect hands.
May has lived a lonely life thus far, and, when her love life hits a roadblock, May snaps and starts to build a deranged friendship with a doll. Bettis nails the role of May, and, as the film progresses, her character definitely doesn’t turn into a heroine—but she certainly plays a commanding role.
7 Panic Room – 6.8 (2002)
Almost ten years after her iconic role as Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs, Jodie Foster plays a divorced woman named Meg Altman who has just moved into an upper-class home with her daughter who has asthma. Hidden within their New York apartment is an extremely secure panic room, and, unbeknownst to them, it will soon come in handy.
All is well until three burgers break in and Meg realizes she has to protect her daughter and take refuge in the panic room. Even though Meg and her daughter are basically confined to one room, they must fight beyond the odds of protecting themselves against men who want in the room. Even though Foster shines, a young Kristen Stewart plays a powerful role in Panic Room, as well.
6 Triangle – 6.9 (2009)
Directed by Christopher Smith, who came out with Creep several years prior, Triangle is about a group of friends who set sail on a yacht to have a fun day. One of the women, Jess, played by Melissa George, can’t shake the feeling that something isn’t quite right about their voyage.
Her suspicious are dead-on as they approach a storm and the group is forced to board another ocean liner to get to safety. Jess is convinced she’s been here before, and, soon enough, she and her friends realize they aren’t alone. This is one of George’s best performances yet, as she plays the brave Jess perfectly.
5 Hard Candy – 7.1 (2005)
Ellen Page plays a young girl named Hayley Stark who has been having an online chat room conversation with a man and finally asks to meet in person. They both know she’s a teenager, but the man, named Jeff Kohlver, played by Patrick Wilson, agrees to it.
When they take things a step further and go to Jeff’s house, their true intentions come to the surface, and they have serious and deadly consequences. Ellen Page plays a pivotal role in Hard Candy as her character fights for injustices while knowing she could be in danger.
4 Match Point – 7.6 (2005)
Directed and written by Woody Allen, Match Point is a romance and thriller about a former pro tennis player who falls for a wealthy woman and soon marries her. It’s when Chris, played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers, starts to enjoy the finer things in life and finds himself attracted to a struggling actress named Nola, played by Scarlett Johansson, that he meets her at his wife’s family estate.
Their affair heats up, and Chris promises to leave his wife for Nola. When things aren’t going fast enough, Nola threatens to tell his wife herself, and, from then on, Chris tries to find a way to get rid of her. At 21, Johansson plays the seductive and conniving Nola well and is one of her best early roles to date.
3 The Butterfly Effect – 7.6 (2004)
When The Butterfly Effect came out in 2004, audiences were shocked at the originality this film had. When a man named Evan Treborn, played by Ashton Kutcher, suffers blackouts as a boy, he finds that they lessen as he grows up—that is, until he finds his old journal and rehashes those memories to turn back the clock.
One of the main characters is Kayleigh, played by Amy Smart, who does an excellent job of playing different versions of Kayleigh. Throughout the film, viewers see how strong she is from multiple perspectives, even though they are heartbreaking. The Butterfly Effect is also one of Ashton Kutcher’s best roles in his career this far, as he really pushed the boundaries and skill of his character, Evan.
2 Changeling – 7.7 (2008)
Changeling was directed by Clint Eastwood in 2008 and starred Angelina Jolie as Christine Collins. Christine is grief-stricken when her missing child case isn’t taken seriously by the L.A.P.D in 1928. A boy is found months later, but Christine knows this isn’t her son.
While law enforcement deems her a liar, she takes them on to prove that her real son is still missing. Seeing a woman take on a male-driven law enforcement crew in the 1920s is inspiring and based on real-life events. Changeling is also one of the best movies Jolie has done so far in her career.
1 Mulholland Drive – 8.0 (2001)
Mulholland Drive isn’t a movie with just one strong female lead; it has two. Rated as one of the best mystery thrillers, Naomi Watts and Laura Harring star as Betty and Rita, a wide-eyed young blonde actress trying to make it in the film industry and a seductive car-crash survivor with amnesia.
When Rita breaks into Betty’s aunt’s home, they meet and Betty agrees to help Rita find her identity by going through her purse, and what she finds instead is a wad of cash and a blue key. This sets the women off on a string of events to find the truth about Rita in an idyllic Los Angeles setting. This film is a must-see, and without a doubt, Mulholland Drive is one of the best dramatic movies of the 2000s.
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